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April 17, 2004
HERE'S MORE ON "UNSCAM," THE OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL in U.S. News:
Here's how the scam allegedly worked: Saddam sold oil to his friends and allies around the world at deep discounts. The buyers resold the oil at huge profits. Saddam then got kickbacks of 10 percent from both the oil traders and the suppliers of humanitarian goods. Iraqi bean counters, fortunately, kept meticulous records.
Coincidence. If you wondered why the French were so hostile to America's approach to Iraq and even opposed to ending the sanctions after the 1991 Gulf War, here's one possible explanation: French oil traders got 165 million barrels of Iraqi crude at cut-rate prices. The CEO of one French company, SOCO International, got vouchers for 36 million barrels of Iraqi oil. Was it just a coincidence that the man is a close political and financial supporter of President Jacques Chirac? Or that a former minister of the interior, Charles Pasqua, allegedly received 12 million barrels from Baghdad? Or that a former French ambassador to the U.N., Jean-Bernard Merimee, received an allocation of 11 million barrels? Perhaps it was just happenstance, too, that a French bank with close ties to then French President François Mitterrand and one of the bank's big shareholders who is close to Saddam became the main conduit for the bulk of the $67 billion in proceeds from the oil-for-food program. All told, 42 French companies and individuals got a piece of this lucrative trade. No matter how cynical you may be, it's sometimes just plain hard to keep up with the French.
But they're not alone. Russians received more than 2.5 billion barrels of the cut-rate crude. Some 1.4 billion barrels went to the Russian state. Not to be left out of the feeding frenzy, even the U.N. got in on the action. It received administrative fees of about $2 billion for the program, which may be fair, but the senior U.N. official in charge of the program, Benon Sevan, is reported to have received 11.5 million barrels himself. Cotecna, a Swiss-based firm hired by the U.N. to monitor the import of the food and medicine to Iraq, hired Kojo Annan, the son of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, as a consultant during the period when the company was assembling and submitting bids for the oil-for-food program.
Read the whole thing. It seems as if this story is starting to get some real attention.